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November 08, 2007

Comments

Edward Lee

Fukuyama's claim is insane by today's standards for sure. However, during the time when this piece was written, his argument might have had some validity. There are many factors that he failed to consider. First, to assume that anything is set in history, especially to claim that history has come to an end, is absurd. If history hasn't taught us anything else, it has definitely showed us that anything can happen, especially when it comes to political and economic change or differences. Secondly, Fukuyama didn't consider religion as a major factor into his argument. Religion has been around since political and economic institutions has been around, and has played a major role in influencing those 2 spheres of the civilized world. For example, the conflicts in the middle east have partly been due to religious/racial differences, and of course political differences that have been worsened through the involvement of the U.S. Just because the U.S. was the hegemonic power of the world during the time Fukuyama wrote his piece, and even still is today, there are other rising powers. Global powers, mostly economically, such as China and India were factors that weren't really considered by Fukuyama. The rate at which those two nations are growing is exponential, and with the rise of globalism with transnational barriers coming to an end through the information age the U.S.'s place as a hegemonic power isn't set in stone, which would mean liberalism as a leading political and economic institution may be faltering as well. Fukuyama should never have assumed anything about the future or that history was coming to an end by saying that liberalism was the final victor, especially when there's about 50% of the world's population drowning in poverty.

Tessa Berman

While Fukuyama’s glorification of the liberal ideology is understandable, as mentioned before, in its nativity at the end of the Cold War, the conflict between liberalism and communism has since been succeeded by ideological battles within the overarching political-economic trend Fukuyama refers to as liberalism. Though he makes distinctions several places in his article between political and economic liberalism, overall Fukuyama fails to anticipate the plentitude of conceptual battles within these general terms which have been fought since his time. Moreover, several of the examples Fukuyama cites as heralding the triumph of economic liberalism and indeed the end of history, would actually seem to indicate the successfulness of alternative development strategies as in the case of China and the NICs.
Fukuyama qualifies his proclamation that history has come to an end based on his belief that the victory of so-called ‘liberalism’ over other forms of political economies attests to the ideological consistency and indeed ‘rightness’ of such a system. Though it seems Fukuyama’s liberalism has indeed existed without major challenges since the end of the Cold War, this is more a testament to Fukuyama’s archaic conceptualization of liberalism, than of the achievement of ideological peace. Liberalism is in fact inherently contradictory, in that it requires governments to protect the very autonomy and supremacy of markets, yet professes that the market is natural and self-sustaining. Without resolving this inconsistency, liberalism even in the broadest terms, has a long way to go in order to claim uncontested ideological primacy.
Fukuyama’s claim is further antiquated by his characterization of China and the NICs as indicators of liberalism’s imminent triumph. As has been pointed out in recent years, both of these players have relied heavily on state sponsored industry and protections to achieve the industrial success much celebrated in economic circles. Moreover, the political liberalism which Fukuyama predicts must follow economic liberalization is contestable in light of China’s development precedent, human rights abuses, and the variegated economic power of different parts of Chinese society. Overall I would have to agree with Noah that while not insane, Fukuyama is merely overexcited at the ideological implications of the Cold War and not particularly insightful as to the realities of ‘liberalism.’

Connie Lim

Web Assignment 11: Fukuyama

Fukuyama’s the End of History? is a controversial and one-sided time capsule that encompasses strong opinions and thoughts that stem from the his time period’s neoliberal school of thought. His rhetoric creates a startling dichotomy that sets up an “us” vs. “the others” type of mentality. In addition, he seems to idolize and put a lot o faith into the idea of having a globalized and homogenous form of ideals and methods of executing government and economy. I would have to agree with Noah in that there is no “common ideological heritage of mankind” from either an economic or political perspective.

One major issue that I have with his essay is his claim that US’s current disparities in opportunities and wealth are not a product of our legal or social constructs.
In addition, this erroneous claim is his justification for disregarding issues such as black poverty as signs of continuing conflict despite a supposed congealed sense of ideals. From black people to American Indians to Chinese Americans, the US legislation and economic system has limited much of their abilities to maneuver within the US society (ex: Land Reservation Acts, lack of executed the supposed equalities within areas of poverty). The ideals of democracy may be stated as the main running force of the country, but what is claimed and what is actually being practiced is a very legitimate source of additional conflict that Fukuyama glosses over.

Fukuyama’s Hegelian ideals spur my own question: Don’t such inconsistencies and conflicts lead to questioning of dominant ideals? There are different interpretations as to how one should obtain or maintain their own state of liberty. Not all cultures want to be involved with the Western perceptions of what a fulfilling life is. Especially economically, many countries are left with no choice but to participate in the ever-demanding international market tin order to barely get by. Again, there are already power structures built into these Western systems. Even if there is participation and a sense of success in a neo-liberal’s perspective, that does not mean that frustration is festering, and that people are unsatisfied.

Going back to Noah’s response, where there is desperation there is struggle and conflict. This is also where history is made. Domestically and outside of the US, there are many impoverished and desperate people. Enough unrest will create history, regardless of whether or not the majority of the developed countries agree with the Western system of not. In addition, although Fukuyama seems to counter-argue with the possible conflicts involving religion and nationalism, he does an incomplete and superficial defense against these very legitimate sources of conflict. A state of peace does not revolve around pure agreements over ideals. It is based on actual decisions, practices, and reactions amongst the people. Fukuyama’s article is far too out of touch.

Allison Moore

Is Francis Fukuyama insane? I don't believe so. What Fukuyama is saying is
that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is
largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the
end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He was even
successful in predicting the eventual global triumph of political and
economic liberalism.

I think some of my fellow classmates have misinterpreted what Fukuyama is
saying. It seems that a lot of the confusion comes with mixing the terms
"history" and "events". Fukuyama does not claim at any point that events
will stop happening in the future. What he is claiming is that all that
will happen in the future is that democracy will become more and more
prevalent in the long term, although it may have temporary setbacks (which
may, of course, last for centuries).

Fukuyama argues the controversial thesis that the end of the Cold War
signals the end of the progression of human history: "What we may be
witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a
particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such:
that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the
universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human
government."

Fukuyama aligns himself with Marx, but even more so with his predecessor,
Hegel. Both Hegel and Marx believed that the evolution of human societies
was not open-ended, but would end when mankind had achieved a form of
society that satisfied its deepest and most fundamental longings. Both
thinkers thus posited an “end of history”: for Hegel this was the liberal
state, while for Marx it was a communist society. This did not mean that
the natural cycle of birth, life, and death would end, that important
events would no longer happen, or that newspapers reporting them would
cease to be published. It meant, rather, that there would be no further
progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions,
because all of the really big questions had been settled.

I found this piece to be extremely interesting, and even more so because
of how many other writers we have read thus far in the semester are
mentioned (Keynes, Friedman, Orwell).

Vaishnavi Jayakumar

Fukuyama’s main line of argument, rather than insane, is largely plausible. He argues that in the 20th century, liberalism has faced off decisively against Marxism and Fascism and in both cases prevailed. The only prevailing communist state in the world today, China, “rather than being the pattern for Asia's future, (has become) an anachronism”, reflecting the end of world history in terms of the triumphant ideology. While I agree with Fukuyama that neo-liberalism does at the moment seem to have wrested its rivals into oblivion, history has shown that far-more established ideologies were overturned in a much shorter period of time, and neo-liberalism has not proven itself to be a definitive exception.

Although Fukuyama’s substantiation of this theory rests on the events of the 20th century, he borrows conceptually from Hegel and Kojève, both of whom had made similar assertions in their respective times. It is therefore somewhat bemusing to understand how Fukuyama can experience the same hubris as the former two, considering that he specifically notes that neither one of them predicted the end of history accurately. Fukuyama borrows from Hegel in defining the final product: “The state that emerges at the end of history is liberal insofar as it recognizes and protects through a system of law man's universal right to freedom, and democratic insofar as it exists only with the consent of the governed.”

If we accept Fukuyama’s definition of the end of history as the global triumph of the sovereign neo-liberal state, then his predecessors are sufficient counter-evidence to show the resurgence of alternative modes of governance such as empire, autocracies and socialist states. I do greatly admire his argument but as Connie expressed before me, the current dominance of the liberal state cannot mask its inadequacies, and is bound to result in a questioning of the mode that could lead to its downfall (as happened with earlier ideologies).

Finally, current trends are throwing the prevalence of the neo-liberal state into question, both politically and economically. The increasing submission or parallel importance of sovereignty with regional organisations such as the EU is eerily reminiscent of empires, or even portends a new form of international governance that neo-liberalism cannot fully account for.Therefore, while Fukuyama’s argument is quite brilliantly nuanced, his argument cannot stand the test of time even if we accept the “end of history” to be the triumph of the neo-liberal state. Once we begin considering alternate meanings to “history”, it fails entirely.

Morgan Brewer

Clearing modern neoliberalism is not the end of history. If anything, it is merely a repetition of ideas that have already been visited in the past, such as the re-emergence of free trade. While I disagree with Fukuyama if he is taken literally, he does offer some valid points that are up for interpretation. One section that really stood out for me was in Fukuyama’s conclusion:

“The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.”

From my perspective the world is already seeing the “worldwide ideological struggle” that called for all the above qualities diminish. While I may just be caught up in the academic world of PEIS, everything seems to revolve around economic calculation, from our everyday actions to the actions of countries and international conglomerates. There are no more William Wallace’s, no more Martin Luther King Jr.’s. As I stated previously, I do not agree with Fukuyama, and yes, I think he is a bit looney, but his article certainly made me think.

Ellen Guan

I think the problem with Fukuyama is that he is too philosophical and lacks much real world insight. With the fall of the Berlin Wall he seems to feel that the major players in the world have finally reached what he calls the “end of history.” To him, there seems to be a formula that will take over international relations and no matter what are the input factors the answer will always be positive and right. Through this “Common Marketization” of international relations, he believes that the likelihood of large-scale conflict will decrease.

The problem with this notion is that there really is not a formula that will make everything okay. In fact, to make Fukuyama’s argument valid, everyone within each large state that he mentions must agree to the political ideology of their state and politicians must bend to the rules of the common market. This however, is impossible. First of all, within each state there will always be conflicting political ideologies. Second of all, politicians, in their effort to get re-elected will always strive to grab the biggest piece of pie for their country and if every country wants the biggest piece of pie, there is bound to be conflict.

It is clear that there will always be philosophical conflicts, both internal and external, for states of all sizes. Here I would like to cite what Edward said previously: “If history hasn't taught us anything else, it has definitely showed us that anything can happen, especially when it comes to political and economic change or differences.” I think Edward really has a point here. History is not a book and there is no ending chapter. It is in fact an improvisational author that is writing a story of himself as time unfolds and at any moment, anything can happen.

Lastly, I want to say that I believe, like Fukuyama, that conflict between the major players will diminish, but I believe so for a very different reason. I think that conflict between the major players will diminish because of the increasingly devastating war technology. With increasing weaponry, the consequences of war are much greater than before. The dire consequences of a nuclear bomb or bio-weaponry is enough to undermine desire to gain economic advantage. However, I do believe that there is a limit to this fear and that conflict is still possible beyond a certain point.

Jazmin Segura

I believe that Fukuyama’s line of reasoning was not insane when The End of History was published in 1989. Indeed, the response must have appeared to be extraordinarily eloquent and reasonable because he was writing at a moment when Communism was everywhere in retreat, and it was not surprising that he proclaimed that the end of the Cold War marked the end of history and the victory of economic and political liberalism.
Indeed, it seems like he sees liberal democracy as the best conceivable social-political system for promoting freedom and also that liberal democracy would not be superseded by a better or “higher” form of government. According to Fukuyama, other forms of government, from monarchy to communism to fascism, had failed because they were imperfect paths for freedom; liberal democracy, allowing mankind the greatest freedom possible, had triumphed because it best instantiated the ideal.

However, this argument appears to be insane in the world we are living today, times have change and new conflicts have emerged, therefore, I believe that his idea is no longer relevant. In fact, with a predominately liberal democratic world order never has violence, inequality, exclusion, poverty, and economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. This new conflicts completely undermine Fukuyama’s end of history argument. I think that the failure to address these conflicts other voices will become far more influential in the new world order and thus. Already other ideologies have proven to challenge this liberal democratic idea. Ideologies like Islamic Fundamentalists or Hugo Chavez’s Neo-Socialist Democracy. I feel as though Fukuyama’s argument has lost touch with new empirical facts that have emerged with the war in Iraq, and other new conflicts.
Thus, I agree with all other precious posts that claim Fukuyama’s argument is weak and that the End Of History is not near from happening.

David Grande

To pose the question that Fukuyama is insane is a little harsh to say. But we can’t pass the fact that some of his arguments are overly idealistic in his own sense. Considering the fact that his work was published in the midst of the Soviet Union losing its power and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, Fukuyama greatly felt that Western Liberal Democracy was “the answer” for every nation in the world. Is that really truly an accurate statement?

Scoping into China, who in a matter of three decades has become the fast growing nation in the world markets, has made its stance without being the liberal or the democratic nation that Fukuyama felt was pivotal. And to extend on the idea, Fukuyama addressed the fact that conflict is “very unlikely” since the United States and other western countries have market share in practically every major economic power in the world. If that is the case, shouldn’t the war we are witnessing in Iraq be a lot simpler to implement with our “democratic notions?” Truth of the matter is, as much as western liberal democratic ideas can be laid out and specifically explained to ensure proper practice; it is never easy to transform a country which has been using different ideals for centuries to an automatic supporter of democracy.

Therefore, Fukuyama can be said was “clouded” by the events that were going on at the time his work was written and advocating neoliberalism as the end of history, but if he had written the same ideas 15-20 years later, he’d see the world is a completely different place. Neoliberalism is not the end of history, and we can see that there are many other fundamental ideas and practices out there that disagree with the democratic notions of the West.

Ziwei Hu

Let me begin my response by saying that this is the fourth time I’ve had to read Fukuyama’s piece “The End of History?” in my time at Berkeley. And my answer to the question of whether or not I think he is insane is: no, I don’t think he is insane. Pretentious, short-sighted, and misguided, maybe…but not insane. As Irina has pointed out, given the context of the time in which Fukuyama was writing, his ideas were influential and resonated with a lot of people. And it does have its merits, in that it’s well-written, intriguing, and to a degree, persuasive. However, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, Fukuyama makes a hasty and incorrect generalization based on selective observations of the events that were unfolding at the time of his writing. In a strange way, I see a parallel between Fukuyama and Djilas, in that both of them attempt to apply the isolated experience of one group to the rest of the world.
As Julia and Norris have stated, nationalism and religion do appear to be substantive alternatives to liberal democracy- a point supported by our readings from Stern and Zakaria. And while I definitely agree with them in terms of ideologically external threats to liberal democracy, I also want to point out that there are internal threats to liberal democracy as well, in that liberal democracy, as it’s currently being practiced, is extremely imperfect. In another class I’m taking right now on Global Poverty, Professor Ananya Roy presented what I have found to be the most powerful critique of Fukuyama’s writings- that of Jacques Derrida, in his piece “Spectres of Marx.” Derrida writes that “Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ […] let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth.” Derrida’s quote begs us to ask the question, with 1 billion people living under the poverty line right now, can this really be the ideal? Fukuyama’s glorification of liberal democracy as the historical endpoint neglects all of those who have been marginalized by this system of governance and distribution. There are so many problems with the current state of liberal democracy that we should hope, for the sake of humanity, that it is not the end of history.

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